Luigi Domenico Gismondi

Luigi Domenico Gismondi (19 July 1872 – 1946) was a 20th-century Italian photographer centered in Bolivia and the areas of southern Peru and northern Chile. Throughout his career, Gismondi became a pioneer in photography in Bolivia, documenting various cultural aspects and numerous personalities while at the same time creating a comprehensive exhibit of regional architecture and geography. The Gismondi archive is also notable for being one of the first to have a wide array of photographs of indigenous people from different regions.[1]

Luigi Domenico Gismondi
Luigi Domenico Gismondi.jpg
Self-portrait, Gismondi Studio, La Paz
Born(1872-07-19)19 July 1872
Died1946(1946-00-00) (aged 73–74)
Arequipa, Peru
Known forPhotography
Inés Morán
(m. 1901)
Parent(s)Pietro Gismondi
Maria Modena

Early lifeEdit

Luigi Domenico Gismondi was born on 19 July 1872 in Sanremo, the son of Pietro Gismondi and Maria Modena. Fleeing poverty following the unification of Italy, Gismondi emigrated with his parents and three siblings to Peru in 1890, landing in Mollendo. From 1895, Gismondi travelled with his two brothers Giacinto and Stefano, both photographers, through the areas of Cusco and Arequipa in southern Peru.[2] In 1901, Gismondi married the Peruvian Inés Morán in Arequipa, with whom he would have fourteen children, only seven of which would survive to adulthood.[3] That same year, he became active in Bolivia, settling in the city of La Paz in 1904. Here, he established the Gismondi Photo Studio, which became the center of his professional activity for the rest of his career.[2]

Photography careerEdit

Indian and girl with Cusco ethnic dress. c. 1917. Diran Sirinian Collection, Buenos Aires

Though his work largely centered on the city and department of La Paz, Gismondi's photographic career also took him to nearly the entire territory of the country, including cross-border works in central and southern Peru and northern Chile as well as some in Argentina and Paraguay. In Bolivia, his photographic record of the country was extensive. In La Paz in particular, his work was among the first systematic records of the entire region, documenting the composition of the urban city as well as the Altiplano and the tropical Yungas regions surrounding it. He was also the first to create a documented record of the country's colonial and republican architecture, which has been compared to the similar work of Mexican photographer Guillermo Khalo, and was one of Bolivia's first industrial photographers, documenting several mining and railroad sites, mostly in the Potosí Department.[4]

The majority of the work carried out at his La Paz studio surrounded official photographs and formal portraits of individuals.[4] During his time in La Paz, Gismondi met President José Manuel Pando who appointed him the official photographer of the presidency.[3] Gismondi maintained this position for the rest of his life, photographing every President of Bolivia from Pando (1899–1904) to Gualberto Villarroel (1943–1946).[1] He also took official portraits of prominent diplomats, government ministers, and members of the ecclesiastical hierarchy of the Catholic Church, such as the Archbishops.[5]

Notably, Gismondi also took a large quantity of photographs of indigenous peoples, being one of the few photographers interested in portraying them at the time.[6] His representation of groups like the cholas, highlighting their extravagant outfits and representing them in a dignified manor, came at a time when such figures represented a distinct lower class in Bolivian society. Of particular note among these is Men pulling a rope which features three indigenous men performing the photograph's namesake action, conveyed the concept of a strong indigenous race. These photographs became a popular item on post cards and were a notable advance for indigenist movement.[7][8]

Apart from the cultural relevance of his works, Gismondi also contributed heavily to the practice of photography in South America, bringing with him Italian technology and equipment like curtains, carpets, cameras, chemical material for developing, glass plates, and acetate, among others.[1] Upon his death in 1946, the Gismondi Studio continued its official photographic work through his son Luis Adolfo, his granddaughter Ruth, and his great-granddaughter Geraldine.[6]




  1. ^ a b c "Hechos históricos perduran con fotografías de Gismondi". (in Spanish). Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  2. ^ a b Querejazu Leyton 2016, pp. 75
  3. ^ a b Bajo, Ricardo (13 January 2021). "Los Gismondi: Un legado fotográfico rico y vivo". La Razón | Noticias de Bolivia y el Mundo. Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  4. ^ a b Querejazu Leyton 2016, pp. 77
  5. ^ Querejazu Leyton 2016, pp. 79
  6. ^ a b "La Paz celebra el centenario del legado fotográfico de Luigi Gismondi". Opinión Bolivia (in Spanish). 9 August 2019. Retrieved 20 April 2021.
  7. ^ Querejazu Leyton 2016, pp. 80
  8. ^ Baldivieso, Gina (10 August 2019). "La Paz celebrates 100-year photo legacy of Luigi Gismondi". Retrieved 19 April 2021.


Further readingEdit